Putin Faces Struggle To Keep Russians Sidelined As Support For War Plummets-UK

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Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a videoconference with disabled people and representatives of public organizations from his residence in Novo-Ogaryovo, outside Moscow, on December 2, 2022.

Mikhail Metzel/AFP via Getty Images

Vladimir Putin faces a challenge to sideline the Russians as public support for the war in Ukraine plummets, British intelligence officials say.

In its latest intelligence update, Britain’s Ministry of Defense (MOD) said on Sunday that recent polls suggest public support for what the Russian president called a “special military operation” is “significantly declining”.

British officials referred to a poll reportedly commissioned by the Kremlin “for internal use only” and obtained by the Russian-language independent news outlet Meduza.

That data, according to the report, indicated that 55 percent of Russians support peace talks with Ukraine, with only 25 percent claiming support for continuing the conflict.

“These results are consistent with a separate October 2022 survey in which 57 per cent of respondents said they were in favor of talks,” the UK’s Ministry of Defense said. “In April 2022, about 80 percent of Russians claimed support for the operation.”

The conflict has become “increasingly tangible for many Russians” since Putin ordered the partial mobilization of reservists in September, despite Russian authorities’ efforts to “enforce pervasive control over the information environment.”

The report added: “With Russia unlikely to achieve major successes on the battlefield in the coming months, it is likely to become increasingly difficult for the Kremlin to maintain even tacit popular approval of the war.”

However, in its latest assessment on Saturday, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said some independent Russian opinion polls indicate that Russian citizens still support Russia’s actions in Ukraine “despite growing war-weariness over the past six months.”

The US think tank cited a November poll by the Russian polling organization Levada Center that showed 74 percent of citizens support Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

That poll also found that 41 percent supported Russia continuing the conflict, while 53 percent said Russia should begin peace talks.

The ISW said the poll’s findings are “similar” to the poll commissioned by the Kremlin.

Both polls indicate that a “shrinking but still significant proportion of Russian citizens support – and are even enthusiastic – the war in Ukraine despite Russia’s military failures,” the ISW noted.

But the ISW said Russian morale and political support for the war “is likely to decline further over time if current trends continue.”

“The longer the war continues to inflict Russian casualties while Ukrainian forces gain ground, the more the socio-political dynamics are likely to continue to turn against the Kremlin,” the ISW said.

It added that a pause in military operations “under the guise of peace negotiations could ease growing political pressure on the Kremlin and allow Russia to reconstitute its armed forces for subsequent renewed offensive operations”.

News week has contacted the Russian Foreign Ministry for comment.

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This story was originally published December 4, 2022 5:49 AM.

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